The Council

So this might rock your world – are you ready?

Good fiction can take place outside of novels.

Whoa there, hold on, I’ll get the smelling salts.

I started playing through a game called The Council recently, and let me tell you, it’s a fantastic game and super engaging story.

I don’t want to give much away, because it’s honestly worth the experience of playing it. It’s a story driven game, which thus far hasn’t had any combat. You need to use your character’s wit and skills to notice things and unravel the game’s mysteries.

The mechanics of storytelling through games and through novels are two different things. In both, while you may be letting a story unfold in front of your audience, you have to lay out your clues differently. The game is more visual. The Council allows the player to look at any number of paintings around the mansion the story takes place in – some are directly related to the story, but most just provide ambiance and a little insight into the mansion’s owner. In a novel, you couldn’t thoroughly describe every one of these paintings and the protagonist’s thoughts on them without turning off your reader. Games allow you a more wandering pace, to throw in extra clues that may or may not matter, but above all, to let your player choose whether to see these clues. The novel doesn’t have that luxury – sure you can add red herrings, but the author doesn’t have the luxury, or the burden, of fleshing things out THAT much.

What makes The Council interesting are largely the same things that make novels interesting. The characters – many of them historical figures – are diverse and engaging. Who doesn’t get a little bit excited to be part of a story where you are pals with George Washington?
The story hook is also interesting, and keeps you guessing. That’s really as much as I can say on that account.

As far as game mechanics go, this one differs a bit from other storytelling I’ve played in that your character is given actual skills, and which skills you have at any given time determines which investigative or conversation options are available. This means that The Council feels like a game that can be replayed at least a few different times, because the game lets you know when you’re missing out on something for lack of skill.

There are, I think five different episodes for The Council in total, and only the first two have been released. So if you want to hop in on it, now is a great time. Plus, I firmly believe that developers who think a bit outside the box and make games that are this intelligent should be rewarded. Personally, I’d be thrilled to see more of these and fewer first person shooters. A good storytelling game stays in my mind for a long time.

The game is currently available on PC, Xbox one and PS4. While I’m normally a bit more partial to playing on PC, my PS4 experience has been without complaint.